The fast-food industry certainly has a way of changing the dietary habits of whatever places it opens yet another restaurant in – and this was certainly the case with McDonald’s UK. When the first McDonald’s opened in Powis Street in Woolwich more than 40 years ago (1974), the brand was met with skepticism but through the years, it has changed the way that the British eat, a welcome change that has also changed the country’s culinary landscape.
Not a Great Start
When the first McDonald’s opened, it was not a great success contrary to the brand’s expectations for several reasons. First, the times were hard in the 1970s, no thanks to the three-day work week, the constant blackouts, and the soaring inflation with food being expensive especially when dining out.
Second, the IRA was such a threat people were afraid to eat out particularly as a Birmingham pub bomb killed 21 people in the week McDonald’s opened.
Third, McDonald’s was perceived as a brash American import where people had to eat from polystyrene boxes and paper bags as well east with plastic spoons and forks. Keep in mind that this was a time when eating in the home, more so dining out, was done with proper dining utensils – not with plastic things and definitely not with your hands.
But soon enough, the brand’s popularity started to increase starting with the thick milkshake offered to children. While it was initially a polarizing presence – it has been at the center of riots, boycotts, and legal battles – it has grown stronger, too, with over 1,200 outlets across the country while its market share is still on the rise.
It’s growing status has partly been due to the food revolution taking place in Britain and partly due to the brand’s aggressive repositioning – as a food establishment that offers decent and affordable food and beverages delivered quickly and conveniently.
What changes did McDonald’s introduce in Britain? Aside from several trends including the milkshake, the British can now eat with their hands! Before McDonald’s, dining out meant eating with a fork and knife as well as being served by a waitress – not so nowadays.